With the Indian International Film Academy (IIFA) awards to be held in Toronto June 23-25, CBC News takes a look at the most important films in the history of Indian cinema.

Mother India (1957)

Directed by Mehboob Khan, this searing melodrama involves Radha, a penurious single mother (played by the legendary Nargis). She lives in a rural village, working the land and raising her children while fending off a predatory loan shark. Widely seen as a metaphor for India's struggles with its independence, the film climaxes with Radha's decision to sacrifice her criminal son to uphold her family's honour.

Mughal E Azam (The Greatest of the Mughals, 1960)

This sweeping 17th-century epic concerns a pleasure-seeking prince named Salim who falls in love with a court dancer named Anarkali. Complications arise, however, with the emergence of another dancer who has her eye on Salim and, more importantly, the throne. Despite its harsh, unsentimental ending, Mughal E Azam was the largest-grossing film in Indian history — until it was overtaken by Sholay (1975).

Guide (1965)

Based on the novel by venerated Indian author R.K. Narayan, Guide is a grand saga about love and sacrifice. A dashing young tour guide named Raju is hired by Marco, a wealthy archeologist, to navigate some caves in the countryside. Marco becomes so wrapped up in his research that his neglected wife, Rosie, turns to Raju for romantic guidance (cue the sexy music). The film takes a number of unexpected turns from there, and by the end, becomes a sober examination of spiritual faith.

Anand (Joy, 1971)

Directed by Indian master Hrishikesh Mukherjee, Anand is a melancholy tale about a terminal cancer patient (played by Rajesh Khanna) who decides to spend his dying days in vibrant Mumbai, where he transforms the life of a gloomy young doctor (Amitabh Bachchan).

Deewaar (Wall, 1975)

Deewaar was a watershed in Indian cinema. Not only did it mark Amitabh Bachchan as the angry young man of Bollywood, but it broke ground in its depiction of strong-willed, independent women. The film follows the lives of Ravi (Shashi Kapoor) and Vijay (Bachchan), the sons of a disgraced Mumbai trade unionist. One becomes a cop, the other a gangster, their divergent life choices leading in the end to an agonizing confrontation.

Sholay (The Fire Balls, 1975)

This kinetic picture involves a pair of petty thieves (played by Dharmendra and Amitabh Bachchan), who are hired by an ex-policeman to nab a notorious gangster named Gabbar Singh. The premise is a catalyst for bravery, brotherhood and some nervy action sequences. Considered by some to be the greatest Bollywood film ever, Sholay was so popular in its time that one Indian theatre ran it for 286 weeks in a row.

Hum Aapke Hain Kaun…! (Who Am I to You?, 1994)

A cherished tale of lust and loyalty, this largely upbeat film tells the story of Prem (Salman Khan) and Nisha (Madhuri Dixit), who become sweethearts when their respective siblings are arranged to be married. Their burgeoning romance is thwarted, however, when Nisha's sister suffers a fatal fall, and Nisha's family compels her to marry the widower. The movie's soundtrack features 14 tunes, an unusually high number even for a genre notoriously smitten with song.

Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (The Big-Hearted Will Take the Bride, 1995)

Another sprawling take on the complications of arranged marriage, Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge has had unprecedented success, playing for more than 800 weeks in one Indian theatre. Simran, a first-generation Brit, is slated to wed a young man named Kuljeet and move back to Punjab. Before doing her marital duty, Simran undertakes a tour of Europe, where she meets the debonair and insistent Raj (Shahrukh Khan), who ultimately changes her fate.

Lagaan (Tax, 2001)

In the days of the British Raj, an Indian village strains under the burden of high taxes and a dismal harvest. In a long-shot attempt to improve their lot, the residents present their colonial masters with a proposal: a lessening of their taxes if they can beat the Brits in a cricket match. Lagaan won heaping praise at international film festivals and was a nominee for Best Foreign Film at the 2002 Oscars.

Lage Raho Munna Bhai (Keep Going, Munna Bhai, 2006)

Starring the irrepressible Sanjay Dutt, this is the second instalment in the popular Munna Bhai series of films. Munna Bhai (Dutt) is a Mumbai crime boss who begins to see the spirit of Mahatma Gandhi, the iconic leader of India's independence from Britain and widely considered the "Father of the Nation." The revelation compels Munna Bhai to forsake his criminal ways to pursue a truth-seeking, non-violent existence — he even becomes a life counselor to ordinary citizens. A box-office bonanza, the film was credited with renewing public interest in Gandhi, and was the first Hindi film to be screened at the United Nations.